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Debow v. Township of Lakewood

Decided: March 18, 1944.

BERTRAM DEBOW, PROSECUTOR,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF LAKEWOOD ET AL., RESPONDENTS



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, J. Elmer Matthews and Albert Larrabee (Robert A. Lederer, of counsel).

For the respondent Township of Lakewood, Percy Camp.

For the respondent Victor Samuel, Vincent S. Haneman.

Before Justices Parker, Heher and Perskie.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The question requiring decision in this case is the validity vel non of a resolution passed by the Township Committee of Lakewood on November 24th, 1942, and of the contract executed the same day pursuant to said resolution, concerning the employment of an attorney-at-law to liquidate certain tax certificates held by the township.

In order better to understand the question requiring decision, it is necessary to refer to the meeting of the Township Committee of the Township of Lakewood, New Jersey, held on November 9th, 1942. On that day, a resolution was passed authorizing the proper officers of the township to execute a contract, in form submitted, with Attorney Victor Samuel (hereafter referred to as respondent), under the terms of which respondent was to liquidate, through foreclosure or otherwise, some 337 tax liens held and owned by the township. In pursuance of that resolution the contract was executed, on November 9th, 1942, between the township and respondent. By the terms of this contract, so far as is here

pertinent, respondent agreed to perform the necessary legal services incident to the liquidations, whether through payment, or through the vesting of title in the township, of the 337 tax liens held and owned by the township.

The tax liens were divided into three categories and an agreed price was to be paid respondent for his handling of each lien, the price being dependent upon the category into which each respective lien was placed.

For his professional services, respondent was to be paid in the manner, though not in the words, prescribed by the statute (within the "purview" of which the contract was concededly "drawn"), namely, "in all or in part, from the funds derived, or to be derived from the redemption of liened property or the sale of foreclosed property * * *." R.S. 40:50-6, as amended by Pamph. L. 1941, ch. 189, p. 576, ยง 1. Additionally, the township agreed to appropriate, commencing with the year 1943, $5,000 per annum "for the purposes of this contract," until the work to be done thereunder shall have been completed, and that in the event there were insufficient funds available to pay respondent from "liquidation of tax liens" and from the "proceeds of sale of real estate" then the township should cause to be appropriated in its fiscal budget for the year 1948 an amount sufficient to pay the balance due respondent. This contract was "not to become effective" until it had been "approved" as provided by the statute, by the "Department of Local Government." (R.S. 40:50-6, as amended.)

The contract was forwarded to the Department of Local Government for its approval. That body met to consider the contract on November 16th, 1942. Opposition to its approval of the contract was voiced at this meeting by the single township committeeman who had voted against the passage of the resolution of November ...


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